is for Kindness
There is only one consistent rule in our house—be kind. Now I break this rule way more than I care to admit, but I am quick to apologize, point out my lack of sensitivity, and try to make it better as soon as I can. To be kind for one day is achievable but it is always the day I choose to focus on kindness that all the irritating crap (i.e. people) confronts me in order to test my resolve.
I think my focus on kindness in general stems from an awkward adolescence that consisted of a lot of insecure moments, a lot of being teased, a lot of not fitting in (and having it pointed out to me just for the enjoyment of others) as well as some all around just mean people doing their best to make me feel small and insignificant by maybe…say...yanking my sweatpants down in front of the boys P.E. class as they ran by.
All of this turned me into the all-around-root-for-the-underdog Queen of Empathy. As a child I watched The Charlie Brown Halloween Special every single year hoping that Charlie Brown would NOT get a rock and wanting to squeeze myself into the TV to be his friend and share my candy. I vowed that I would NEVER pull the football away from him if I ever got a chance to meet him.
The reason my teaching career primarily resided within the middle school years was my need to be a “protector” for anyone feeling awkward, intimidated, insecure, or vulnerable—which pretty much describes the entire early adolescent experience. My underlying need of course to make sure no one was ever treated like I had been.
I encourage empathy from my daughter as well, but I got lucky, she was already wired this way from the start so I can’t really claim that I “taught” her anything about being kind. I point out situations on TV or in real life where we can talk about how alone or sad or embarrassed someone might feel, and what I would do to make them feel better and she will add her own ideas as well. I also encourage her to notice kids at school that look lost or lonely to say a quick “hi” to if she feels comfortable doing that.
Being kind to someone else never implies that we have to be “besties” it implies that I value you enough to extend my best behavior, and hopefully they will return the favor. I’m just hoping that if I remember to be kind, hold my acid tongue, and not feed into anyone’s lack of kindness then my overall area of existence will start to become a better place for me, my daughter, and anyone willing to visit my corner of the world.
I’m hoping that my kind corner of the world will touch all of your kind corners and then we can each breathe a giant sigh of relief.
J is for Joy
Be joyful today! This is your tenth day of your 26 Days to Practice Peace. If you have placed your focus on any of the previous nine words I am hopeful that you found joy or comfort at some point during that day.
Being joyful is something that feels “bouncier” than being happy does—to me. I don’t know why that is. A smiling baby seems to embody joy. My big Newfoundland Mix, Grover, seems joyful when he hops around in the snow like a 80 pound bunny rabbit. Joy seems to have a distinct look and feel to it.
Before I headed back to the working world a few weeks ago I stood at the kitchen door watching my daughter walk across the yard, out the gate, across the street toward her friend’s house, looking back to wave multiple times on her way to school. I felt joy watching her. It was different than just being happy, it was both a knowing and appreciating that these moments would soon be gone and that I had better soak up the feelings of these mornings and make them last. Me standing at that door is something we had done every morning since the day she let me know it was not cool to have her mom walk her to school anymore, but since it was coming to an end I just felt so joyful watching her head off to school knowing I’m her Mom.
“Tears of joy” is also something I cherish. A moment so wonderful that your eyes leak; there is nothing quite like that. Tears of sorrow or shame sting my eyes; they have a distinct burn as they well up in my eyes. They make it too cloudy to see as I typically try to hide my face and walk away. Not tears of joy though, they are light, crystal clear, and almost refreshing.
I am trying to think of a recent moment that I had tears of joy--exercising my imagination—but I am struggling at the moment. The reason is simply because I have had a lot of those painful stinging tears lately. Now you know why I needed to start writing my 26 Days to Practice Peace.
I will focus on joy today. The joy I feel when I see my child after work, the joy I feel when I know I made a difference in someone’s day, the joy I feel when I make someone laugh at work with my goofy comments, and the joy I feel when I watch my daughter from across the room while she is busy being a child.
I wish each of you all the joy in the world today.
is for Imagination
I love it when it is so quiet I can hear the snow falling.
I love it when I see a shooting star.
What tiny moments do you love? Not because you receive their gifts every day, but precisely because you don’t.
These tiny seldom occurring events are the kind of moments you can use to exercise your imagination. I have to close my eyes to hear the snow in my memory, but I can keep them open to see the memory of a shooting star. I think that’s weird. The image of a shooting star floats in my imagination somewhere above this page. It almost seems to be floating in a bubble above my head.
I love the way imagination works.
Imagination can certainly be used to create brand new never before seen things, sounds, stories, solutions, etc. but I like to think that I am more likely to imagine that “great new thing” if I insist on using my imagination often—giving it practice. So I exercise mine by filling my imagination with details from things I do remember, but I don’t worry about accuracy. It might sound like I’m exercising my memory, but it’s more than that. I don’t just remember something—it’s the practice of filling my mind with sounds and pictures that I can really “see” that is helping me improve my imagination. I have practiced hearing my snow falling so much that I am now able to close my eyes and hear it when I’m in a crowded place to help me feel centered and calm.
Think of a moment you remember seeing or hearing. That moment you are imagining belongs only to you, it's a special moment that you were graciously invited to witness and now it is being imagined once again by you. Didn’t that just add a whole new level of “special” to your moment?
Thing are perceived in only one way—your way—and it happens for each of us (which is probably why there are so many misunderstandings.) Your memory, your moment is unique to you—mine is unique to me. Fascinating. I think that makes these moments treasures to behold and definitely worth spending at least sixty seconds with every day exercising your imagination. How about you?
is for Heart
Today I will focus on the center of my chest. That fist sized beating heart that feels as though its purpose is so much more than a pumping system.
Pay close attention to all the feelings in your chest today. Whenever you can place your attention there choose an image that makes you smile. Imagine a rose blossom—any color—opening as in time lapse photography. Imagine blue-green fairy dust falling into a beautiful leaf—can you tell I watch a lot of Tinker Bell movies with my daughter? Or you could imagine two hands gently holding your heart as it glows a beautiful color of your choosing. Whatever color lights up in your imagination is just fine. I’m sure you can think of an image that will redirect your focus to the center of your chest. You're attempting to just notice your heart and pull away from all the mind chatter that distracts you.
The heart is an amazing organ. I have felt the pain of my heart breaking from sadness, despair, and disappointment, but I have also felt my heart swell from the joy of pride, love, or amazement.
Does my physical heart literally swell or break—no—but to seemingly feel those sensations is certainly experience enough to warrant my respect, tenderness, and attention for the day.
My wonderful heart also warns me of my tendency to live in a place of fear. I will feel a nervous fluttering that most folks would consider to be panic. That feeling used to scare the shit out of me, but now I use it as a reminder that there is a distinct possibility that my imagination has run away with me again. My imagination enjoys taking me on “worst case scenario” adventures. Lately when my heart pulls this "warning" I try to pause, breathe, and reconsider the nervous thoughts flying through my head and remember that not one single “worst case” imaginings has ever actually happened as bad as I played it out in my head.
Place focus today on the power of your heart. It's a beautiful messenger of sorrow, warning, reality check, and love.
is for Generosity
Generosity of spirit is where I place my focus today.
It’s easy for me to first associate generosity with financial generosity but because I’m working through some of my own financial setbacks I personally need to focus on as many other types of generosity that I can.
Be generous with your smiles. In the store if I see someone who looks completely sad and defeated and I can make eye contact I will give them a smile with a hint of “been there—done that—got the t-shirt.” If I can pull a hint of relief from their face then my generosity has been received.
Be generous with your time. Spending a few extra moments to really listen can be one of the most generous things I do in a day. I spend my extra moments with anyone needing to share a story with me; sometimes it’s the crazy old dude in the coffee shop telling me how to live my life and sometimes it’s my neighbor with the “guy troubles.” My favorite extra time is with my daughter listening to her invent a story while we run errands or just sitting near her while she does homework.
Be generous with your prayers. I try to send off a positive thought when I’m feeling uneasy, annoyed, or scared. A fire truck blasts by loud and scary and I say “I hope everyone’s okay.” Someone drives around me dangerously cutting through traffic and I say, “I hope you arrive safely.” Whatever, whoever I come across during the day that needs some extra love I simply send off a little prayer. My prayers aren’t a typical prayer like I learned when I was a child, but taking a moment to send a focused thought of pure goodness can’t hurt.
For today give of yourself, your heart, your smile, your time, your ears, instead of your dollars. This form of generosity pays itself back instantaneously. You might get to hear a fascinating story, make a new friend, or quite possibly extend some emotional relief to someone who is in desperate need.
Today say, “I will give whatever I can to whomever I can whenever I can.”
is for Faith
Faith can be difficult; I should say faith is difficult for me. To trust, rely, and believe with unwavering conviction challenges me—but not if I'm trying for just a single day.
If for just one day I focus on trusting the day to take me where it goes safely, then I can smile through the day. My goal will be to link a bunch of these single days together and create a confident, trusting life filled with trustworthy friends, loyal confidants, and faith in the beauty and madness of it all.
For one day focus on faith. Believe in yourself first and foremost before you put your faith in another. Those empty spaces inside you that don’t contain faith in yourself that you can handle it, can do it, can accomplish it are the exact spaces that get taken over by others to be used as they please. These people may be wonderfully kind and full of good intentions wanting to help you in your hour of need, but then again why not believe in your own ability first, and then call upon others to assist you.
Unfortunately for me the people that took over those empty spaces in my life were not especially kind with good intentions. The opposite has been my experience more often than not, and my faith has been shaken, but I refuse to give up. I see faith, confidence, and trust working for others so the way I see it my day has to be coming!
For some, like me, it is difficult to ask for help because it is difficult to trust. Other times it is difficult to ask for help because you don’t know what to ask for. Having faith in yourself first leads you to the right questions to ask, the specific needs you have for seeking help. Faith that you can handle what comes no matter what—be it a job loss, a death in the family, a broken bone, a car accident, a broken heart, an addiction, an assault, whatever life throws at you, believe first that you can handle it, then sort out those pieces of help you will need.
Have faith that you will always be able to handle what comes your way today. Don’t give your crisis away to someone else to handle for you. If you do you have just given away life’s greatest opportunity to learn exactly how strong you really are. You can earn yourself another new badge of supreme courage if you like to imagine yourself in a decorated coat of armor--or maybe that's just me. Have faith that you are never alone, never isolated, never not capable—you are able to own your crisis or problem, and once you believe that you're able to learn from it is the moment you know exactly how to seek help and guidance without giving away your opportunity to learn. I always like to say, "Feeling alone is a human experience; being alone is a spiritual impossibility."
Today try saying this, “I have faith in ME today. If it rains let it pour; this I can handle.”
is for Epiphany
For today try to remember an instance when your brain just clicked and you said, “Ohhhh now I get it!” or perhaps an “Oh! I see it!”
That spontaneous moment when the perfect idea or solution to a problem just popped in your head bringing with it a moment of great release and joy. The mystery has been solved. The veil lifted for a moment and all was good.
What I love about these moments is the coinciding amnesia that comes with it. You forever “get it” and the way it felt to be so confused and seeking is just gone. It reminds me of those illusions you look at until you see the face or the horse or whatever it is you are supposed to find; once you find them you can never go back. You can never un-find them. For the rest of your life when you see that tree picture you will always see the faces hidden within.
My wish for you today is that perhaps you actually have an epiphany during the day, but part of the accepted definition of epiphany has the words “a rare occurrence” in it, so perhaps today won’t be the day…but what if it is? Oh how wonderful.
My moments of epiphany typically occur around a problem I’m having or a puzzle that needs solving at work. They finally arrive within the twenty-four hour period that I “gave up” on it. I don’t mean that I’ve given up forever, but I have temporarily admitted defeat and decided to set it aside for awhile and think about something else. It is the grace of Spirit that whispers inside my head and all of a sudden I just know “this will work!”
Funny thing about that Spirit that Inspires, it knows when I’m faking. It seems to know when I pretend to “give up” just to see if it will bring me the answer. I truly with all my heart and soul have to walk away and dig into something else.
As you begin your day say, “Today I will release my need to know the answers or directions to take. Today I am letting the right answers just appear in my quiet, unassuming mind.”
Is for Divinity
Divinity: What does that word mean to you? I don’t believe it means the same thing for any two people, so define it as you will.
For one day however I would like you to concentrate on the miracle that is YOU. The fact that you exist at all is an amazing fact. All the things, events, people, and places, that had to intersect before you in order to combine the perfect molecular stew that is YOU is a pretty phenomenal event if you ask me.
You see the world in only one way—your way. We cross paths with people we agree with, disagree with, understand, and don’t understand, but there is no one else who can look through your eyes and perceives the world the way you do. That is a miracle to me.
I choose to view each of us as a tiny spark of the Divine. We are all part of this large mass of little sparks of light each composed of our own very special pieces of Divinity. Some of us are gifted speakers, artists, healers, writers, conversationalist, protectors, nurturers, thinkers, problems solvers, care givers, listeners, dancers, smilers, organizers, huggers, and some are excellent laughers. Have you ever been around a person whose laughter fills you up? I have and it comforts me.
Since this list of our gifts is infinite, and since we each can’t be all of these things in one healthy body without being completely insane not knowing which way to go with our life, I believe we each bring our own set of sprinklings from the infinite list. It is by being in the presence of others with different sprinklings that we gain balance and joy. When I’m in need of support I seek my friends with the gifts of encouragement, insight, and empathy. At crowded gatherings I follow around the conversationalist like a shadow. When others need clarity they seek my logic, organization, and creativity. We balance each other out and fill in the gaps.
What are your special sprinkles? Before you begin your day try to think of at least five. If you have trouble coming up with five, dig deeper—or call me. I bet I can listen to you for ten minutes and know what makes you awesome!! Maybe it's your smile, your glowing eyes, your patience, your ability to doodle and talk on the phone simultaneously, or even the crow’s feet that demonstrate a life time of smiling, or maybe it’s your quiet demeanor that calms those around you, or your ability to be the life of the party and tell a great joke. You have sprinkles I’m sure—simply because of the fact that you are here—period.
Today spread your Divine Pieces around. I like to ask myself this question, “When I come in contact with you, what missing pieces of divinity are we getting to share with each other today?”
Is For Compassion
What is compassion really? Sharing the sorrow of another? Helping or supporting someone in need? Sending someone a tiny prayer of thanksgiving, or of loving kindness, or of hope, or of sunshine when they need it most. Perhaps it's absorbing the sadness or discomfort you see in someone for the sake of releasing it for them. This is the way compassion feels to me.
It's easy to feel compassion for people I care about--my friends, family, pets, the usual suspects, but I try to stretch myself a bit more to include people I don't know. I like to practice sending loving kindness to people that I don't understand, or people that really piss me off, or folks that I completely disagree with. I ask you to stretch yourself today too. Notice someone that you typically avoid for some reason and take a moment to simply send them some loving kindness; a tiny prayer of calm, patience, or peace might just do the trick. Sometimes I need to remind myself that I don't know what a person's back-story is, and sometimes it's a story that I wouldn't understand but that needs a lot of love anyway. Try it today; stretch your loving kindness muscle.
I also like to extend myself some compassion when I feel uncomfortable. When I'm around a lot of people that I don’t know, or that don’t look like me, talk like me, or act like me I start to feel awkward. This describes me at every social gathering known to man, but what suprises me is sometimes the older teenagers in my neighborhood make me feel self-conscious. The crazy thing is I used to teach kids just like them, but still as a group I get uneasy these days because I'm not their teacher so they don't know me very well. I'm sure they're all very nice, but they are louder than me, stronger than me, and they stare at me sometimes. This is when I start to feel uneasy. I smile and wave a self-conscious little wave and internally I send them a tiny prayer. I say in my head, “Be happy; be safe.” By doing this I feel as though I've comforted myself and extended kindness to them.
For today look around you, find the folks that need your silent wish of compassionate kindness and send it off on the breeze. The homeless guy on the corner, the co-worker or boss who irritates you, the child on the playground standing alone, the tired looking man or woman with the world heavy on their shoulders, there are multitudes of people who just need a simple wish of happiness, joy, peace, and love.
Send it with a small smile and go about your day. You never know what you just set in motion for their life.
Is For Breathe
Take a deep breath. Fill your belly. If you can’t feel your stomach expand then you have to lie back down in bed. On your back you can’t help but fill your diaphragm.
Hold it. Hold it for maybe 3 or 4 “Mississippi’s.” Let it out slowly.
Repeat. Breathe in and fill that belly. Hold it. Let it out slowly.
Now you are allowed to get out of bed, or move from the couch, office chair, or room.
My chest and belly can get so tight sometimes that there are moments where I catch myself actually holding my breath! Let the air flow through you today, hold on to none of it in a nervous anxious way.
When you breathe like this you are giving yourself a moment of power in a world where so many things leave you feeling powerless! Controlling your breath in a world, or day, or moment when you feel nothing is under control can grant you a peaceful moment. Permit yourself that peaceful powerful moment.
As you move throughout your day natural transitions will occur: rising from the table/desk, heading off to a meeting, heading off to the bathroom, turning off the T.V. before heading to bed, preparing your child for a nap, preparing to take your child to the library, on and on and on. Before you transition from one event to the next take a moment and breathe in and out two times while you pay attention to those two breaths. I don’t ask that you clear your mind and try to not think, go ahead think about what it is you are transitioning to or from, but see if you can fill your belly two times before heading into the next thing.
If you miss a transition moment, so what? If you get in four deep breathing transitions today that is probably four more than yesterday, so Rock On!
Try saying this at your next transition: “I will take these breaths. They are mine to enjoy.”
A Is for Accept
Acceptance does not imply approval or even a slight happiness that IT IS. It just IS.
For today as each thing unfolds accept that it is unfolding without judgment—good or bad, ugly or pretty, thick or thin, hot or cold, disaster or miracle, on and on.
Whatever happens this one day—don’t give it a label. The dog craps on the carpet? It is simply a pile of poo on the floor that needs cleaning. Clean, and move on. It happened. You can’t un-poop it. Accepting that it happened does not imply you approve of your dog doing this, or that you are happy this happened, it has simply happened. Breathe through it.
The car won’t start? Breathe through it. Make a list: who do you need to call? The appointment you will miss? Someone to come give your battery a jump? A taxi service? Breathe. Accept that at this instant the car isn’t going to start, don’t judge this as the worst event ever. You will never really know. A giant semi full of battery acid could be heading for a tragic accident involving your car at this very moment had the car started—maybe not. You just don’t know maybe your stupid not working car just saved your life.
Child home sick from school?
Toilet over flow?
Nothing lasts forever. No event will consume the rest of your living days. For this 24 hour period if IT comes accept IT.
Try saying this, “Today I will accept this event as it is. If it needs a plan to resolve it I will make that plan or find someone to help me make the plan. This is my day.”